Saturday, 2 May 2009

Capability Brown and Kirkharle

In 1716, Capability (Launcelot) Brown was born in the hamlet of Kirkharle. (He was known as Capability Brown because of his habit of commenting on gardens as having "great capabilities")He was baptized in St. Wilfrid's Church and at first attended the local school, but then moved on and walked to school in Cambo. When he left school, at 16, he worked for Sir William Loraine, 2nd baronet, of Kirkharle. If you visit you will find a developing site that is writing his story. This gives some of his history after he left Kirkharle and lists gardens that he designed or was associated with.
He became, arguably the most famous landscape gardener in English History, and was described as 'the Shakespeare of Gardening' by the German prince, Hermann Puckler-Muskau, in the early 19th century.
A few years ago, the current owner of Little Harle found a plan in the draw of a desk that had belonged to his grandfather. This plan shows a design for a lake and landscape for Kirkharle Hall. There is much mystery here. The date of the plan is uncertain. It could have been the very first one that he did, before he left for Kiddington Hall in Oxfordshire. Or it could have been done in 1770 when he stayed with Lady Loraine at Kirkharle. The next mystery is exactly how the buildings were. There was a Peele Tower there originally and the plan shows buildings incorporating it, in what appear today to be the wrong place.
The plan currently is to create much of the lake, shown on the plan. It is not possible to do the whole plan because the A696 was cut through the land, not so very long after the plan was drawn. Much of the funding is in place to dig the lake, put in walks and plant many trees. More is still needed but a start can be made and the digging will begin in a few weeks, weather permitting. In Capability Brown's day, it would have been dug by a large labour force wielding spades etc. Now mechanical diggers will be used.
The 'Offices' of the house, whose East Wing is all that remains, were built round a yard and are now converted into units for craft shops, a café and a Day Conference facility - Kirkharle Courtyard. Yesterday, an exhibition dedicated to Capability Brown was opened by Marion Foster of the BBC. This consists of a number of plaques around the area, telling of his life and also the plan that is to be developed. Down at St Wilfrid's Church there is a Flower Festival. The theme is Water, which played such an important part in his designs. (Think Chatsworth, Stowe and many others). This ancient church is transformed by the most lovely floral creations. My pictures only give a slight idea of the beauty and only three of many arrangements.

Three constrasting pictures. The first is done by a friend of mine, using Rhododendrons from Wallington Gardens. The second really recreates the theme of the display, Water. It looks like water falling over a shallow fall. It was a joint effort by two people I know. The third is so delicate and has a strong pedestal beside it, which emphasises the delicasy of these arrangements.


Irish Eyes said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this WB; love Capability Brown's work and the photograph's are fabulous.

Cait O'Connor said...

I loved this info on Capability Brown Withy, also the last two flower arrangements.

Celtic Heart said...
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Celtic Heart said...

He led the way! Beautiful arrangements, Withy, and I love 'water' as a theme. I did my final major on frozen water at college. The last photograph made me look twice, for there is a similar arch feature at my local cathedral.